Star-Crossed Missile Defense

The changeover of US Air Forces in Europe from a four-star command to a three-star billet probably means that the creation of an integrated US/NATO missile defense “won’t happen,” at least not quickly, USAFE chief Gen. Mark Welsh said Tuesday afternoon. Speaking at AFA’s Air & Space Conference outside Washington, Welsh said “As NATO goes to a four-star single air commander, if the US Air Forces in Europe is a three-star, it is not likely that we will maintain command” of that organization, Welsh said. “NATO will have a tough time picking a USAF three-star for a four-star command,” but “unless the commander, USAFE is also commander of the [NATO] air command,” the ballistic missile integration will be tough to do. “There is too much the US provides in terms of command and control capability to rely on different personalities to make that mission work.” Welsh said “I think you’ll get there, but it will take longer,” than the two years now hoped for.